I’m not sure how popular George Gently as a TV series has been outside the UK but it was a fairly popular series that finished last year. It’s a detective show set in the 60s which revolves around Inspector George Gently (played by Martin Shaw) and his sergeant Bacchus (who isn’t in the books). I’ve loved the show and didn’t realise it was even based on a series of books until recently and, when I saw one in the library, I had to read one and see how it compared.
It seems like a lot of TV shows are based on books and it’s very rare for me to actually like both versions. There are often so many differences that one or the other stands out as better to me, whether it was the first version I saw or not. The main difference here, that I can see from one book anyway, is the lack of Bacchus (played by Lee Ingleby). I had read before finding this book that the character of George Gently himself was very different but I found that I could imagine the TV version when reading this. Maybe because this book is around the twentieth book in the series of forty six (if I’m remembering that number correctly) so he may have mellowed compared to what I’ve read on the character.
This review is about the book, I just thought that it would be worth doing a bit of an introduction including the TV show as that’s how I found the book in the first place and I think it may be the more well known incarnation.
I was surprised that this cover is actually a recent one. The book was originally written and published in 1971 and this cover seems more like it would fit then than a 2013 edition. It’s a nice enough cover but, to me anyway, it reminds me a lot of the editions you’d find in stations or airports, which may the case for this one anyway.
It’s not a long book, it’s 192 pages, and I found that two to three hours was all it took to read it. The story definitely gets going straight away, the body is found on page two and I think that may be a record for these things in books I’ve read. It doesn’t really slow down all that much and the majority of the storyline is actually told through dialogue rather than any long paragraphs of description. There are patches where the author describes new characters or locations but a lot of it is done by the characters inside the book. It does actually read a bit like a police TV show where the characters are explaining what they’ve found to each other rather than you learning things through knowing what’s inside a character’s head. This also means that any of Gently’s ideas are kept quiet until the end, despite there being plenty of suspects and questions that could have had sections of the book on his reactions.
I found that it flowed nicely, it didn’t really have any portions where I felt like I wish I could skip it or anything that felt irrelevant. Each part of the story felt like it fit into whatever line of inquiry they were following at the time even if it turned out to be irrelevant to the final solution.
Although this was written in the seventies the language is pretty modern. I didn’t find myself feeling like it was a parody of the time like with some older books that almost overdo the ‘golly gosh old chap’ type conversations. There is a bit of swearing and it’s definitely more the standard police and the everyday people in the area, with a few exceptions at the big house, so it does feel quite different to an Agatha Christie or similar where it’s all fetes and the idyllic villages, these feel more real somehow.
The only thing that I can find to really criticise with this book was that I did guess the ending very early on. There were too many things that were avoided by the characters when they mentioned it and some things that felt like double bluffs. Maybe I’ve just read and watched too many detective dramas but towards the end the reveal wasn’t really a surprise.
Overall I would recommend this book to fans of detective series. I’d say it’s one for light reading, there’s nothing too deep with the storyline, though the subject matter in this one seems rather odd with a character believing in the occult. I would say another theme that seemed a bit odd and one that’s used a lot in detective dramas but it would really give the whole story away. It’s the kind of book I’ll be getting out in the summer and I will definitely be looking for these from the library in the future.
The general info for the book if you’re looking for it:
- Title: Gently at a Gallop
- Author: Alan Hunter
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: C & R Crime; UK ed. edition (2013)
- ISBN: 978-1780339467
If you want a bit of a preview of the book they have some of it on the Amazon page here.
I wish these books were cheaper, I can’t really find them anywhere under the RRP of £6.99, but if this one does pop up in a charity shop or second hand somewhere I’d say it’s worth picking up. Not sure about full price but at a library or if you find it cheap then worth it for fans of period detective stories who want something a bit different and faster paced than most Agatha Christies.
Have any of you read the George Gently books, or even heard of them? If you have are there any in particular you’d recommend?
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